We headed out the Masspike this past weekend, hoping to avoid the leaf peepers of Vermont and New Hampshire, and indeed, the traffic was surprisingly light this past weekend. So light that we just kept going, much farther west than we originally planned. We ended up all the way in the Great Barrington area, crossed into Connecticut and got some great views.
We also encountered the Appalachian Trail (AT) a few times.
The rains had kept us away until I was concerned we might have lost our chance to enjoy fall’s foliage display. As it turned out, we are still early, and much of the “show” is still in front of us, waiting to happen. We certainly saw foliage, but it was mostly yellows, with a very few sugar maple oranges glowing in the towns we traveled through.
Our first stop was short, an easy walk just to stretch our legs after driving for several hours. We caught some views of the Housatonic River in Great Barrington as it flowed through a Berkshire Natural Resources Council property, Housatonic Flats.
We also encountered perhaps the world’s smallest bog bridge.
Our next stop was Mt. Everett, in the town of Mt. Washington. In previous visits to this area the road was gated, but this time we were able to drive much farther up the mountain, leaving us only about a half-mile walk to get to the top. The existing gated road up to the top is a fire road, so the footing was clear, and oh, so pretty as we walked, with overhanging branches filled with color. But so steep!
I noticed a trail going off to the right and wondered it that would be easier for us to take that trail to the top. “No, that’s the AT, ” my husband replied. We came across more of the trail as we walked up the fire road. “That’s what the trail is, and more rocky,” he said. Ah, I get it. We stayed with the fire road.
Our reward for the climb was some great views back towards the east. A solid bench offered a great spot for us to pull out our lunch and we spent time eating, and resting. My husband ventured without me to the summit,
where a fire tower stood for nearly one hundred years. Today only a sign and a few remnants of the fire tower remains, and the view is obscured by trees that have grown in.
The trip down Mt. Everett was easier in one way, less challenging for my heart, but the pull of gravity was unrelenting on the steep path downwards. Taking it slowly, we made it safely back down. Was this an “easy walk”? The footing was solid, no roots and only small rocks, but the angle both up and down made for some of the more difficult walking I’ve done. And yes, I’m feeling it in my leg muscles today!
We stopped for some photos at Guilder Pond, below Mt Everett’s summit, took in a small waterfall, sent my husband for an extra hike around the pond, then headed out.
Crossing into Connecticut, we came into the Riga Lake district, and found parking for Bear Mountain. My legs were done, so I stayed behind and enjoyed a book while my husband went up the short, but (to me) quite challenging trail to the top where he got some 360 views of the surrounding countryside.
On our way down the dirt road out of the area we spotted a stunning waterfall, the outflow of Riga Lake. The stream continued following us as we wound our way back down from the mountain,
and we found several spots to grab some pictures of the rushing water and the foliage. Such a pretty area.
The bottom line is that there is still time to get out to enjoy the annual show that is fall foliage season in New England. We enjoyed getting away, but I was also reminded that sometimes we see the most amazing things right in our backyard.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.